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  • by Nicola Boulton August 31, 2022 5 min read

    What Is the Difference Between CBD and THC?

    In the course to find more about CBD, you will come across THC and be curious about the difference. What are CBD and THC, and what are each compound's key differences, sources, and compositions?

    The cannabis plant comprises over 113 different compounds that are called cannabinoids. The two known most prevalent compounds of Cannabis are cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). You are familiar with the controversy that exists on the cannabis plant. Researchers have taken it upon them to learn more about this plant, which is claimed to have potential health benefits. Most of the research on Cannabis is also based on CBD and THC. CBD recently made headlines after it was found to treat a rare type of epilepsy alongside dealing with other conditions such as stress, insomnia, and anxiety. It is no surprise nowadays to find products containing CBD and THC. However, you might get confused if you are unfamiliar with the two terms. So what is the difference between CBD and THC? Learn more about how to get rid of a hangover?

    What is CBD?

    CBD is the second most prevalent cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. Any substance or compound within the cannabis plant is referred to as a cannabinoid. THC is also referred to as a cannabinoid of Cannabis. You must understand that CBD is a cannabinoid, and so is THC. CBD can be harnessed from both the hemp plant and marijuana. The hemp plant contains a lower concentration of THC than marijuana. This is why CBD federally approved is only extracted from the hemp plant; marijuana is illegal and classified as a schedule-controlled substance by federal law.

    What Is THC

    Tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, is a pre-eminent cannabinoid in the cannabis plant. THC is commonly referred to as the psychoactive compound in Cannabis that is res for causing high in weed users. According to Laksmidewi et al. (2021), THC activates the rewarding brain system by signaling the release of a chemical known as dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a monoamine neurotransmitter that is essential in mood and pleasure. THC increases the rate of dopamine release. This results in higher dopamine levels, which may make a person more aggressive and competitive, and have poor control over their impulse. THC also leads to feelings of euphoria.

    The Key Differences between CBD and THC

    Although most people are interested in the differences between CBD and THC, it is important to note that they both affect the endocannabinoid system, which is essential in maintaining homeostasis. Stasiulewicz et al. (2020) noted that The endocannabinoid system is a complex cell signaling system regulating many body functions. The Endocannabinoid system is associated with memory, sleep, mood, appetite, and fertility processes. The major difference between THC and CBD is that THC is psychoactive while CBD is not. This means that you cannot get high off CBD. Another important thing is that CBD is extracted from the hemp plant while THC is extracted from marijuana. However, hemp may contain THC, but the THC levels in THC are insignificantly low, and that is why industrial hemp is legal.

    Psychoactive Properties

    Though THC and CBD both affect the endocannabinoid system, they each affect different receptors in the brain. CBD cannot get you high since it has no psychoactive properties. THC is the psychoactive compound in Cannabis and is responsible for the high effects experienced by marijuana users.

    Chemical Structure

    THC and CBD are similar in chemical structure to natural endocannabinoids. This is why both compounds can bind to the cannabinoid 1 and cannabinoid 2 receptors. Bloomfield et al. (2019) noted that  When THC  binds to these receptors, its psychoactive properties bring about changes in mood, consciousness, motor control, and memory processing. According to Muller et al. (2019), when CBD binds to these receptors, it reduces the efficacy and potency of primary ligands. They are also capable of altering the neurotransmitters in the brain differently. The neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that send signals between cells in the body. They are essential in pain, appetite, sleep, mood, and the immune system. CBD targets the neurotransmitters to offer relaxation and reduce stress and anxiety thanks to its anxiolytic properties. THC alters the neurotransmitters and causes aggressiveness and poor control of impulses.

    CBD Vs. THC: Sources

    CBD can be extracted from the hemp plant and Cannabis, but it is only obtained from the hemp plant to avoid adding large concentrations of THC. THC is sourced from marijuana. CBD is potentially beneficial to the health and wellness of an individual on its own. However, some CBD products may contain little amounts of THC, depending on the method of extraction from the hemp plant. Hemp also contains THC but in little amounts.

    Potential Benefits of CBD and THC

    CBD is still a matter of research, but Bonn- Miller et al. (2019) suggested that CBD could help manage conditions such as pain, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel syndrome, epilepsy, and insomnia. Tatarinova et al. (2020) suggested that CBD may also come in handy in reducing symptoms linked to depression, inflammation, migraines, seizures, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

    THC is sometimes administered as medical marijuana though not many practitioners would advocate for this. THC also comes in handy in minimizing symptoms of certain conditions such as insomnia, tremors, nausea, and poor appetite, especially in cancer patients, which is often brought about by the treatment.

    The Legality of THC and CBD

    CBD should only be obtained from the hemp plant. Marijuana is still considered a schedule 1 controlled substance under federal law which means it is not legal, and the same applies to THC. However, there exist drugs known as syndros and Marinol, which contain a synthesis of THC known as dronabinol. These drugs deal with nausea and vomiting brought about by chemotherapy. However, these drugs are only prescribed by the doctor to only cancer patients who have gone through chemotherapy or cancer treatment. CBD is fully legal and is becoming a common ingredient in many products.


    Firstly you must understand that CBD and THC are subjects under research, and not much is known about these compounds of Cannabis. These compounds are from the cannabis plant, and even though they may share a few benefits, they are more different than alike. They are also individually claimed to be beneficial to the health and wellness of an individual, but there is a need for more research. However, before you use CBD or THC, you must consult a doctor first. Learn more about does cbd you a "body high"?


    Bloomfield, M. A., Hindocha, C., Green, S. F., Wall, M. B., Lees, R., Petrilli, K., ... & Freeman, T. P. (2019). The Neuropsychopharmacology Of Cannabis: A Review Of Human Imaging Studies. Pharmacology & Therapeutics, 195, 132-161.

    Bonn-Miller, M. O., Pollack Jr, C. V., Casarett, D., Dart, R., Elsohly, M., Good, L., ... & Abrams, D. (2019). Priority Considerations For Medicinal Cannabis-Related Research. Cannabis And Cannabinoid Research, 4(3), 139-157.

    Laksmidewi, A. A. A., & Soejitno, A. (2021). Endocannabinoid And Dopaminergic System: The Pas De Deux Underlying Human Motivation And Behaviors. Journal Of Neural Transmission, 128(5), 615-630.

    Muller, C., Morales, P., & Reggio, P. H. (2019). Cannabinoid Ligands Were Targeting TRP Channels. Frontiers In Molecular Neuroscience, 11, 487.

    Stasiulewicz, A., Znajdek, K., Grudzień, M., Pawiński, T., & Sulkowska, J. I. (2020). A Guide To Targeting The Endocannabinoid System In Drug Design. International Journal Of Molecular Sciences, 21(8), 2778.

    Tatarinova, T. V., Deiss, T., Franckle, L., Beaven, S., & Davis, J. (2020). The Impact Of MNRI Therapy On The Levels Of Neurotransmitters Associated With Inflammatory Processes. International Journal Of Molecular Sciences, 21(4), 1358

    Nicola Boulton
    Nicola Boulton

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